Leaf Blower Basics
At the most basic level, a leaf blower is nothing but a fan stuck onto a tube. Air is pulled in from the side of the blower, compressed by the high-speed spinning fan blades and shot out the tube. The air can reach speeds of anywhere from 120 mph to more than 200 mph. The tube focuses the air into a high-speed jet, which pushes leaves and other lightweight lawn debris out of the way, saving hours off the time it would take to rake.
Leaf blowers come in two main styles--electric and gas. Electric blowers can either be cordless or corded. Both types are significantly quieter than gas motors and do not create air pollution, making them much more neighbor friendly. Cordless blowers use a battery to power an electric motor, which makes them as portable as gas mowers. Unfortunately, they do not have the air power of gas mowers or even other electric mowers, since they are limited by the amount of energy that can be stored in a fairly compact battery. According to the Consumer Search website, they are best used for light-duty work, such as blowing leaves off driveways. Corded blowers are powered by electric extension cords. They provide a comparable amount of power to hand-held gas blowers in a cleaner, quieter electric package. They can be a bit annoying for some users, however, since the cord can get tangled or unplugged, or even run out as the user moves around the yard.
Gas blowers are favored by commercial landscapers for their power. Hand-held gas blowers are the smallest gas leaf blowers, often weighing less than 10 lbs. They usually use two-stroke gas engines to deliver abundant power in a small, light-weight package. Backpack leaf blowers are more powerful than hand-held models and can weigh anywhere from just more than 10 lbs to more than 20 lbs. There are also walk-behind gas blowers, which provide a tremendous amount of power suitable for the biggest yards. Neither backpack nor walk-behind models are generally needed by private homeowners, since they produce far more power than any but the largest lawns require.
As a leaf blower motor spins faster, the blower makes more noise. High speed air can also make it difficult to push leaves into a neat pile for transportation. To overcome this problem, many leaf blowers have multiple power settings, which allow the user to set the airstream to the minimum power required.
Another useful blower feature is the ability to act as a vacuum. Some electric and hand-held gas varieties can reverse the direction of airflow to suck in leaves. These models have blades designed to shred the leaves as they are pulled through and shoot them out into a bag for storage. Because of the high pressure air, many leaf blower vacuums can also compress the leaves, making them more portable.